6/28/17

Budget Travels: St. Catharines & Welland Canal, Ontario Canada



Living in Western New York, sometimes I feel like there aren't many places to explore within a short distance. It's a wildly incorrect assumption and this summer, I've decided to try and explore the region in which I live a bit more. So naturally I started by going to visit my neighbors in the north, and took a trip to St. Catharines, Ontario Canada. ;)

Considering where I live, and the special relationship that exists and has existed for years between Canada and Western New York, it seems justifiable to include Ontario province in my adventure radius. I have always had wanderlust, but I often have my sights set on places far away. However, my bank account and my desires don't always align, so I decided that this summer would be the summer of budget friendly adventures! I thought it would be nice to try and document these excursions here on the blog, as I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to travel without breaking the bank or really, let's be honest, being able to do so. I'm also excited to really explore places within my own neck of the woods (more or less) as I'm embarrassed to admit just how little I have experienced in my own region. So here's to a summer filled with adventures seeking to change that!

Anyway, back to my trip to St. Catharines... it's a city I've heard the name of over the years but my knowledge really ended there. I still feel like I haven't really been there if I'm honest, because the place we really went to check out was the Welland Canal and Lock 3 which is located in St. Catharines. I can't even explain where it started but a few weeks ago, I was reading about the history of the Welland Canal and it really is a fascinating story. Start with wikipedia (just remember, it's wikipedia!!) and check out some youtube videos too if you fancy. The history of the canal really is interesting. For those that don't know, the Welland canal was built to allow large ships (like huge ocean cargo ships) to navigate through the Great Lakes, from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie and onward. It is part of a larger pathway that allows these massive ships to come from the ocean all the way to the Great Lakes. To get these ships from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie isn't as simple as navigating a smaller seaway - it involves going from a lower lake to a higher lake. To achieve this, ships need to go through a series of locks which raise and lower the ships to allow them to navigate from one lake to another.





After reading all about the canal, I decided I wanted to go check it out for myself. There are locks in the WNY region, but I've never seen them in action, so my curiosity, coupled with the fact that I could pick up more of my favorite Canadian treats made the trip a must. St. Catharines is a perfect spot to experience the canal since there is also a museum - The St. Catharine's Museum, and they have a really great observation deck to watch the whole process of ships coming in and out (or up and down as they say).

The museum is free, and the parking is also free. It's a gorgeous spot and when we went to check it out, it was certainly an international hub. People come from all over the world to experience the canal! As someone with a degree in sociology, I felt my ethnographic research skills coming back as I took in all the different exchanges occurring around me from people who had traveled far and wide to visit this one particular place. I could have easily sat and people watched for awhile.






Watching the ships is a fascinating experience and honestly, in some ways I find it hard to describe. I still don't fully understand how exactly it all works!! I was so mystified by the process that at times I just had to appreciate the ingenuity of it all. We got to watch a ship going down through the canal, and up. I could see spending even more time traveling along the canal to see ships pass through other locks as well.

A great part of the museum is that they post what ships are coming through and at what times, so it helps to plan your trip in order to catch them as they go through Lock 3. You can also call for the information - the number is on their site.

If you do go to Lock 3 in St. Catharines, do also take a walk around inside the museum. They have interesting historical artifacts from the history of St. Catharines and the region as a whole - including from the Underground Railroad, WWI, and WW2. 

If you live in the WNY region, and have not experienced the canal or see the big ocean liners coming through the locks, I encourage you to take the short trip north to experience it. It's free, you can pick up some Cadbury, grab some poutine and enjoy a *real* authentic Timmy's. What have you got to lose, eh?

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